Mary and the Trail of Tears: A Cherokee Removal Survival Story, written by English Ph.D. scholar Andrea Rogers, has been included on NPR’s list of best books for 2020.
Rogers was excited to be taught her e book had been chosen. “It feels implausible to be on an inventory with so many wonderful writers,” she stated.
Rogers’ e book was nominated by Cynthia Leitich Smith, a favourite writer of Rogers’ and one she has thought of a literary hero for a very long time “as a result of [Smith’s] tales have been one of many few locations the place you might discover up to date Native individuals.”
Rogers comes from a inventive writing background, although it took her a while to make authorship a precedence. Whereas educating English and artwork within the Dallas-Fort Value public faculty system for 15 years, she started writing when she wasn’t working or spending time along with her household.
A spot within the low-residency M.F.A. program on the Institute of American Indian Arts gave her a chance to write down extra constantly and to review with authors like Tommy Orange, Pam Houston and Ismet Prcic. At IAIA, she additionally had her first likelihood to work with U of A professor Toni Jensen.
A canopy picture of Andrea Rogers’s 2020 e book, Mary and the Path of Tears: A Cherokee Elimination Survival Story.
“This system was comparatively younger,” Rogers stated. “It turned out to be the most effective issues that ever occurred to me.”
Rogers writes and publishes in quite a lot of genres. Along with having Mary and the Path of Tears launched by Capstone Press final 12 months, she has had an essay revealed in a young-adult e book edited by Janet Gurtler and a narrative revealed in a group edited by Smith.
“The style of the story is determined by the story I need to inform and who I need to hear it,” Rogers defined.
Discovering time to write down creatively now, whereas she is finishing the necessities for her doctoral research, is difficult, however Rogers says her graduate program within the Department of English truly “feeds” her writing.
Latest programs like one she took on speculative fiction and two she took on Native American literature this previous 12 months — with Bryan Harm, Jensen and Kay Yandell, respectively — have been significantly motivational.
Rogers additionally finds inspiration from studying the work of fiction authors like Stephen Graham Jones, Orange (“the primary individual to learn my entire assortment”), Louise Erdrich (“she breaks my coronary heart and places it again collectively, typically in the identical paragraph”) together with Rogers’s “non-fiction heroes”: Jensen, Terese Mailhot and Erik Larson.
Moreover, Rogers likes to learn kids’s literature. “In child lit, my good friend, Cherokee citizen Traci Sorell, is killing it,” Rogers stated. And Smith, a Muscogee Nation citizen, “retains placing out nice work and altering the child lit publishing world.” Rogers additionally recommends Lipan Apache writer Darcie Little Badger, particularly her quick story “The Whalebone Parrot,” which modified Rogers’ life.
Rogers got here to write down Mary and the Path of Tears considerably by likelihood, when an writer good friend advisable Rogers to Capstone for a work-for-hire challenge. After sending a pattern story and her CV to the editor, Rogers obtained the job.
Rogers, who had by no means written in regards to the Path of Tears beforehand, was excited to be supplied the contract. Nonetheless, the method of truly writing the e book turned out to be tougher than she anticipated.
Earlier than beginning the narrative, Rogers needed to develop a chapter-by-chapter define in order that the construction of the e book aligned with the targets of the Girls Survive sequence, through which Rogers’ e book could be included.
Whereas operating her define by Cherokee historian and genealogist Twila Barnes for accuracy, Rogers found she wanted to know extra in regards to the removing of the Cherokee Nation, in addition to the occasions previous it. Barnes urged Rogers comply with the trail her ancestors took to Indian Territory.
Rogers adopted that recommendation.
“I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and I had by no means been to our homelands,” she stated. “I felt I could not write a narrative that begins the place my ancestors lived for hundreds of years with out strolling on that land.”
Rogers and her household packed up their automobile and drove first from Fort Value, alongside one of many northern routes of the Path of Tears, via Arkansas and Tennessee; subsequent to Cherokee, North Carolina (house of the Japanese Band of the Cherokee Nation); then to New Echota in Georgia (the capital of the Cherokee Nation in that a part of the nation till removing); and again alongside one of many Southern routes of the Path of Tears.
Nationwide marker alongside a motorbike path in Arkansas commemorating a route on the Path of Tears.
As soon as again house, Rogers started writing the primary draft of her manuscript, however she nonetheless discovered the method daunting. She was again working at her full-time job. As well as, she “needed to course of a number of historic trauma.”
“Once you notice you’re strolling on a route that decimated your individuals, historical past is now not impersonal. I needed to write a narrative that could possibly be learn by kids, was traditionally correct, and honored my ancestors. Every part I wrote earlier than was straightforward compared.”
To develop a narrative of the Path of Tears to be learn by kids, Rogers collaborated with an illustrator, a brand new expertise for her. If the writer despatched her illustrations she felt have been traditionally inaccurate, like footage of characters who didn’t appear to be Cherokees, Rogers despatched again images and articles for Matt Forsyth, the illustrator, to make use of to make corrections — which he did.
“I used to be very comfortable to see the result. Matt did a implausible job, which was no small feat since he lives in New Zealand.”
Having her e book included in Capstone’s Women Survive sequence has additionally been a satisfying expertise for Rogers.
“I’ve three daughters and labored at an all-girls’ faculty, so I am hyper conscious of the need for books that heart on ladies, particularly ladies who’re BIPOC,” Rogers stated, utilizing an abbreviation for “Black, Indigenous and folks of shade.”
Andrea Rogers and her two youngest daughters at a Path of Tears historic plaque at New Echota, Georgia.
“I additionally turned conscious of the misogyny youngsters can internalize within the books they learn. The default viewpoint for the Women Survive sequence is feminine. The primary characters face issues that ladies have, traditionally, confronted and survived. Usually, these tales have been ignored. The Women Survive sequence helps fill a void in kids’s literature.”
Rogers is presently growing an image e book in addition to a number of different tasks for grownup readers, persevering with each to feed her ardour for inventive writing and to handle a big hole within the literary custom.
“We’d like extra work by Native writers with Native content material,” she stated.